Another season is in the books, and this time, it was a memorable one. After an abysmal 4-8 record in 2010, Greg Schiano and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights were able to come back strong and finish 9-4 in 2011. Predicted to finish last in the Big East, the Scarlet Knights once again were on the last step towards a BCS birth when a season finale loss to Connecticut kept the Knights at, yet again, a mildly meaningless bowl game. Now, don't get me wrong, a 9-4 year after a terrible (and seemingly cursed) 2010 is a huge step forward. A bowl win is all a Rutgers fan wanted for so many years, and now we have some, 5 in a row to be exact. For Greg Schiano, meeting the goal of winning bowl games has made him a household name in the college football landscape. With that said, when goals are achieved, expectations are raised. Now, it is time to prove that his belief in Rutgers Football is warranted.
After showing again and again that they have the talent and coaching to get to the next level, it is time to look ahead to next season to see if 2012 can finally be the year the Knights have been looking for. How many times will a dropped pass, false start, or early out of conference loss be an excuse for Rutgers? How many times are they going to get this close to the mountain top, just to finish 4th in their conference? And finally, how many times are the Knights going to have the opportunity to control their own destiny and squander it down the stretch?
It has been a path of highs and lows for Rutgers fans in the Schiano era. First, you are blessed with players like Ray Rice and Kenny Britt who now score NFL touchdowns at will, along with a player like Devin McCourty who quietly became a first-round draft pick and Rookie Pro Bowl selection. Then, the wall hits, the wall that hits any coach trying to get a team from the basement to the ceiling. The wall of inconsistency. Inconsistency not only in execution on the field, but in recruiting, personnel, and play calling in particular. Rutgers went from a prolific pro-style offense, to losing the next big thing (Tom Savage), to wasting a year on the Wildcat (sorry, Sanu), and now back to taking small name players and turning them into big names. Lets get this straight, many of the best players out of Rutgers were not big recruits, and still, the big recruits that do come to the Banks of the Old Raritan are usually overrated or turn themselves into busts by investing into their ego instead of the "F.A.M.I.L.Y" mentality that Schiano praises.
My point? Ray Rice was a converted cornerback that was wooed away from Syracuse and turned into a running back. Kenny Britt was a 3-star recruit out of Bayonne who somehow stayed out of handcuffs for 3 years in New Brunswick. Mohammed Sanu was a 2-star athlete out of South Brunswick who did not play his senior season due to age restrictions (he was 19 in the fall of his senior year). Steve Beauharnais was a no-name early signing who turned himself into a star linebacker after only a year of college ball. Khaseem Green was a struggling safety who Schiano made into the Big East Defensive POTY at outside linebacker.
So you ask again, my point? My point is that Rutgers isn't your typical program. Rutgers takes small name guys that "buy into the system" and turns them into useful, well coached players that somehow sneak onto and sometimes flourish on NFL rosters. Rutgers doesn't need 5-star recruits that contribute right away, and doesn't need preseason recognition to make themselves feel better. Rutgers needs consistency. Luckily,with this group of players and coaches, consistency may not be the only thing they get, they may get exactly what they need to finally make it to a BCS game in 2012.
Let's take a look at the reasons to be optimistic about Rutgers Football in 2012: